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Staff Devotions

"Fresh Oil"
(By Jessica Townley)

I’ll never forget my time living in Bakersfield, CA.  So many lessons were learned in such a short time.  One in particular stands out among the rest.  During the springtime, the streets of Bakersfield received a major facelift.  I am not sure if this is common practice in other states, but in California it is considered normal for teams of workers to lay fresh oil on the worn cement.  It gives the appearance of a brand spanking new road.  There is something about sparkly, black pavement, with fresh white paint, that just gets me excited.  I love it.

As I was relishing in the abundance of the blacktop, I began to take a closer look at the ground that my car was driving on.  I noticed that even though it had the appearance of being new, the jagged cracks in the road still remained.   There were visible, missing pieces in the infrastructure, in spite of the city’s best attempt to camouflage the brokenness.   I realized that this quick fix was extremely temporary.  It did nothing to resolve the actual problem at hand.  The true issues would remain until more permanent construction took place.

As these random thoughts were entering my mind, I began thinking about how this correlates to issues of the heart.  My heart.  Often times, it is more simple to make everything on the outside look good.  Generally speaking, it is a lot easier to appear like I have it all together than to actually epitomize what that statement means in its entirety.  The truth is, my insides are messy and sinful.  In my humanness, I am broken and jacked up.   If I fail to deal with this truth, then it continues to get swept under the rug.  Therefore, the destruction remains.

Transformation must occur on the inside just as much as on the outside.

Jesus speaks of this very issue in Mark 2:21-22.

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”

In other words: it is pointless to continue to worry about the outside appearance when the inside is rotting and decaying.  New wine is meant to go into a new container.  It makes sense. Jesus is seeking pure, holy vessels to do his kingdom work.    Therefore, I must not ignore the need for constant and repetitive surgery of my soul.  I don’t want my focus to be on the outside alone, failing to take a closer look below my skin surface.  Like I said though, easier said than done.

Let’s think about it for a second together – how much time do we spend working on our outside appearance?  How many hours do we spend at the gym, at the hair salon, at the mall in search of that perfect outfit, at the pool trying to get a tan, in front of the mirror, on Pinterest trying to keep up with the latest trends, posting only our best self portraits on Instagram, etc.?

What if you and I spent that same amount of time, dare I say more time, working on our soul transformation?  How many hours do we spend in the Word, in prayer on our knees, evangelizing, repenting, etc.?  I am embarrassed at the dramatic difference between these two numbers in my own life.  I don’t want to have a polished, sophisticated or even glamorous persona when everything within me is totally wrecked.  My prayer is that the Holy Spirit would continually renew my mind, heart and spirit.  I am tired of putting on the fresh oil to camouflage my deep heart issues.  Quite frankly, it’s exhausting.   Out with the old wine skins and in with the new.  I am under major construction, people.  And I am no longer ashamed of that.  Who’s with me?